Helping gardeners beautify their homes since 1939.

Spring Bulbs 101

Q: My neighbor has beautiful clumps of daffodils in her garden. I'd like to have that. How can I?

A: Spring bulbs, so-named because of their bloom time, are planted in the fall – September, October, or November. This is because they need the warm soil to set their roots and then 13 to 16 weeks of cold for dormancy. As the soil warms up in the spring, they start waking up. Daffodils aren't the only spring bulbs. Tulips, crocus, hyacinth, scilla are also included in the spring bulb mix. Planting different bulbs can give you up to 120 days of bloom time. Check the packages for early, mid, and late season bloom (late March, April, and May).

Q: How do I plant them?
A: The general rule is 3 times the depth of the bulb. So a 1-inch crocus bulb gets planted about 3 inches deep. Tulips and daffodils are larger bulbs, so they're planted about 6 inches deep. When you put the bulb in the ground, look for the flatter side of the bulb. That's where the roots are. So you want to plant the pointed side up.

Q: Is there a particularly good layout for bulbs?
A: You can get a more dramatic effect by planting bulbs in large clumps. To plant them in a grouping, you might want to first lay them out on top of the ground to figure out your design. Then dig a big trench, placing the bulbs in it according to your design. Don't let the bulbs touch, but plant them close together for a colorful impact in the spring.

Q: I'm not buying that many bulbs. Can I just dig single holes, one per bulb?
A: Yes, and it's easy with a special bulb planting tool. Just dig the hole, put the bulb upright in it, and replace the soil.

Q: When the flower dies, can I cut the leaves back to the ground?
A: The foliage feeds the bulb for the next year, so you need to leave it until it yellows. If you don't want to look at the dying leaves, plant annuals or perennials around the bulb to conceal the leaves. If the bulbs are deep, you can plant over them. Or you can layer your bulbs in the same hole (for example, daffodils at 6 inches deep, crocus or grape hyacinth bulbs on top at 3 inches).

Q: My tulips last only one or two years. Why?
A: Perhaps you don't fertilize enough. We recommend you mix Bulb Tone in the soil with new plantings. In the spring when the leaves are about 6 inches high, top-dress with more granular fertilizer. This will ensure larger bulbs year after year.

Q: I have deer in my yard. What spring bulbs can I plant?
A: Narcissus, crocus, allium, fritillaria and hyacinth are all deer-resistant.

Q: I always forget where I've already got bulbs planted. Is there any good way of marking the spot?
A: Here's a great way to mark where you've put the bulbs. Plant grape hyacinths in a small group of five bulbs near or on top of your larger bulbs. Their foliage comes up in the fall – a visual of where your other bulbs are.

Q: Can I move my bulbs around in my yard for variety?
A: In the Netherlands, all bulbs are pulled up in June. Once the soil on them has dried, they are stored in a cool, dry place to be replanted in October. So yes, you can move your bulbs around - but most people don't want to make the effort.

Just go ahead and try some bulbs this fall. When you see their beautiful flowers in the spring, you'll be hooked!